Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. As with many other companies Inspired Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ:INSE) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
What Risk Does Debt Bring?
Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. In the worst case scenario, a company can go bankrupt if it cannot pay its creditors. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.
What Is Inspired Entertainment's Net Debt?
The chart below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that Inspired Entertainment had US$132.2m in debt in March 2019; about the same as the year before. On the flip side, it has US$19.7m in cash leading to net debt of about US$112.4m.
How Strong Is Inspired Entertainment's Balance Sheet?
We can see from the most recent balance sheet that Inspired Entertainment had liabilities of US$38.6m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$162.3m due beyond that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$19.7m as well as receivables valued at US$24.5m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$156.7m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.
This is a mountain of leverage relative to its market capitalization of US$167.1m. This suggests shareholders would heavily diluted if the company needed to shore up its balance sheet in a hurry.
In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).
While we wouldn't blink an eye at Inspired Entertainment's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 3.9, we think its super-low interest cover of 0.28 times is a bad sign. It seems that the business incurs large depreciation and amortisation charges, so maybe its debt load is heavier than it would first appear, since EBITDA is arguably a generous measure of earnings. It seems clear that the cost of borrowing money is negatively impacting returns for shareholders, of late. One redeeming factor for Inspired Entertainment is that it turned last year's EBIT loss into a gain of US$5.3m, over the last twelve months. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Inspired Entertainment can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So it is important to check how much of its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) converts to actual free cash flow. During the last year, Inspired Entertainment burned a lot of cash. While that may be a result of expenditure for growth, it does make the debt far more risky.
On the face of it, Inspired Entertainment's interest cover left us tentative about the stock, and its conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was no more enticing than the one empty restaurant on the busiest night of the year. But at least its EBIT growth rate is not so bad. Overall, it seems to us that Inspired Entertainment's balance sheet is really quite a risk to the business. For this reason we're pretty cautious about the stock, and we think shareholders should keep a close eye on its liquidity. While Inspired Entertainment didn't make a statutory profit in the last year, its positive EBIT suggests that profitability might not be far away.Click here to see if its earnings are heading in the right direction, over the medium term.
If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.
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